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DCSD reworking pay schedules to meet minimum wage requirement

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When Colorado voters approved a new minimum wage law in 2016, they probably didn't consider how that could affect the state's school districts. After two work sessions, the Delta County Board of Education continues to grapple with how best to adjust employee pay schedules to meet the $12 per hour minimum wage requirement by January 2020.

Action on pay schedules for both certified and classified staff was removed from the April 19 board meeting agenda.

"We do not feel that we are ready to make a decision on our salary schedules at this time," said district superintendent Caryn Gibson ahead of the board meeting.

In looking at the pay schedule for aides, to get to $12 they would have to jump several steps resulting in "pretty substantial increases" of up to 12 percent, said district financial officer Jim Ventrello.

"That's a heck of an increase," said board treasurer Pete Blair. "What would taxpayers think about that?"

The minimum wage will be bumped up incrementally on the path to $12/hour. While the change immediately impacts only the district's lowest paid employees, salaries for other classified staff, from bus drivers to maintenance personnel, will be increased to maintain the separation that acknowledges the skill, knowledge and responsibility of each position.

One thing board members and administration agreed on is that there currently is no real rhyme or reason to existing pay schedules for classified employees, teachers or administrators. A move across the salary schedule can result in increases ranging from 1.21 to 3.79 percent. To clean up the discrepancies it was recommended the school board look at making a departure from the traditional "step system." Changes would still take into account an employee's education, experience and years of service, said Gibson.

Because salaries and benefits account for about 75 percent of the district spending, any changes made this year will have a profound impact on the 2017-2018 budget, said Gibson. The good news is that the increases are not anticipated to affect the cost of employee health insurance. Since premiums will not increase for the 2017-18 school year, this is a great year to work on pay schedules, she said. "Usually we give an increase, then take it away with insurance premium increases." Without the increase, employees will likely feel the benefits of a pay increase.

Just in listening to the conversation, we're just not ready to vote on the changes, said board president Tammy Smith.

The district plans to continue meeting with representatives from the certified and classified councils on the issue. A special work session is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 26, and another work session will take place at 3:30 p.m. ahead of the May 11 board meeting. Certified salaries must be finalized by the May 11 meeting, when contracts are scheduled to be approved for returning teachers.

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